Saturday, June 25, 2011

Playing Evil in RPGs

Gosh I don't know what's kicked this off but I've recently heard two different podcasts discussing the pros and cons of playing Evil characters in fantasy settings.

Trying to remember - it hurts! - which podcasts it was, but I think it was Fear the Boot and RPG Circus.

Anyway neither show really hit what I thought was the "answer". Okay, now you're wandering what the question is ...aren't you. The question is "how" to play evil characters?

Why is that even a question? It's the question because most peoples initial view of "evil" characters is the baby eating back stabber who is some kind of constantly uber evil person. That's the problem. If you try to create a group of PC's of that type the group cohesion will not exist they will constantly be attacking each other!

What you need to do is accept that "evil" is more insidious. Look around the world we're in, look for evil and how it manifests.

For example, lets take the Nazi example. Nazi's imposed evil practices on the countries they controlled. They were organised, but they were also cohesive. We see this type of evil all of the time. What we call evil is so often the imposing of "evil" policy. So, be it a dictator in some desert country killing his own people, or some euro' with crazy ideas about people of another religion, they are imposing evil policies.

At the top of these organisations the people are generally quite evil , but even so they don't eat babies, or at least not in front of their followers.

When you want to play an "evil" campaign ( you sick git ) your PCs will have to be cohesive and organised. You could play the minions of the super evil character. Another alternative is to play bandits who are considered evil by everyone they pillage. Another alternative is to be a spy group, perhaps mercenaries who join up with the good guys but with a plan to double cross them.

In summary the group can be evil, but they have to remain a cohesive group. They can be "evil" to each other!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Playing Avalanche

Today a co-worker brought in a 1965 copy of Avalanche into the office. After pondering about this marble game that's actually 3 years older than me, we set to playing.

It's actually a great little filler. It's on a level with something like "Connect 4" in that it's obviously a toy and easy to play. Explaining the rules took no more than 20 seconds and off we went for a two player, quickly followed by a three player game.

Dropping the marbles in the top of the game gives a nice satisfying click-clack sound as they drop down the chutes and hit the swinging gates. When you get a bunch of marbles to drop in one hit it's satisfying, even if they are not the marbles you need.

During our three player game I managed to apply tactics, in that I noticed one other player was the only chap collecting blue marbles. So I actually concentrated on collecting blue by inserting red and yellow marbles ( the colours I was after ). I was able to keep him from winning but and only squeezed a second place out for myself.

After two plays, I'm quite sure this is a game I'll pick up myself if I see it in a shop somewhere. Great for kids, and a good little filler for me!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Contemplating a new RPG

I've been thinking about creating a new Role Playing Game. The idea for a one-shot type game came to me last night. I haven't really thought it all through yet but I'm still rather enamoured by the idea so I'm going to lay out the idea here so that it wont be lost.

The premise is a sci fi game where the players are super rich characters who like to hunt. The game starts with the PC's being dropped off on a remote planet by a shady guy who's promised them the hunt of a life time.

The game is simply the hunt. Other than the PC's the only other characters are the alien creatures being hunted.

I'm thinking that the Alien should be rolled up at the beginning of the game. This rolling up would consist of simple picking a collection traits/aspects that the GM would have to combine into some suitable target of the hunt.

The PCs would not be aware of the aliens aspects ( the shady character didn't give too much information ).

I'm thinking that the PC creation would be a little more complex. A small collection of skills would be available to pick from. Then they get a couple of positive traits/aspects and one negative. That would allow the PC's to be generated quite quickly which is required in a one-shot scenario.

Another variable that could be decided by a die roll, would be the environment, anything from swamp through to deserted city.

So that's the idea, a simple one shot game. I'll probably throw together the first draft of the rules in the near future, if I can find the time between work and recording audio books.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


What is it?

OSRIC is a retro clone of AD&D 1st edition. That means that the rules of AD&D are in this book, but none of the original art or artistic presentation. That's not to say there is no art, the book has a varied collection of art sprinkled liberally through its pages.

You can download this rules set for free as a very nicely laid out PDF, or order a hardcopy from the POD publisher LuLu. It's this Lulu copy that I'm reviewing.


The hardcopy I ordered is a softback, black and white inside with a colour cover. Its 380 odd pages with two column layout interspersed with single and double column art.

The cover is thin card and shiny, the paper inside seems to be about the same weight as standard printer-paper. The binding is solidly glued with no loose pages. I can not fault the print quality at all, the type and art are clear and crisp throughout. ( I had feared a lower quality because it was print-on-demand but it is actually better than some standard print products I've bought in the past.

The art is generally of the "hobbiest" quality with a few standout pieces, they seem to have come from a collection of different artists so there isn't a common look and feel throughout.


The major sections in the book are :

Character Creation
How to Play
Dungeons, Towns and Wildernesses

Each of these sections is stuffed with content and in the whole very well written. If you have a history of AD&D then you'll find all of the usual classes, races, spells you've seen before, although they may have slightly different names due to copyright restrictions.

I love what they've done with the "How to Play" section. This section is very very clear and suitably concise. They've managed to produce a text that describes how to play the game in a step by step manner that is clear and straight forward. I've introduced a couple of new players and they've found this an easy introduction to role playing.


This is a great book. Although it has a lot of pages, the actual rules are a limited to about only 60 pages with the rest being reference materials. This means that it's easy enough to get playing without a massive slog through an expanded rule system.

There is no hint of a background or environment in this book, so you'll have to add that yourself.

Value for Money?

Considering the cost, I've more than got my monies worth. I was pleasantly suprised by the price. I've been led to think that buying POD books is an expensive way to get your role playing games, but here I got very good VFM!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mouse Guard RPG - Character Generation

Creating a Mouse Guard Character

The first step is to decide on your character concept you could be anything from a young Tender Paw up to the lofty heights of Guard Captain. Well I'm looking for something in the middle, without the responsibility of the higher ranks but also with some skills so I opt for Guardmouse, which one of the middle ranks, the foot soldier if you will.

Being a Guardmouse means my character will be aged anything from 18-25, I opt for middle of the road again, age 22, this also means the character will start with a "Will" stat of 3 and Health score of 5.

The next step is to determine the characters "Mouse Nature", basicly how strong is the Mouse as opposed to the anthropomorphic side. Starting with a value of 3, you then answer some questions each of which effects the Characters generation. For instance if your character goes without now so that it can save for

the winter then Nature increases by 1, and so on. I end up with a Mouse Nature of 4.

Next you decide where your character was born. This effects the skills your character gains before joining the Guard. In this case I opt for the town of Copperwood. This means my mouse gains the Skills of Smith and Haggler and the "Independent" trait.

Life Experience is the title of the next section. Here you answer a number of questions with each answer generating a number of skills. During this process may pick the same skill across multiple steps thereby increasing that skills rank.

The first step is to pick some skills, Guardmice such as mine get to pick just one. I opt for Hunter because it sounds cool!

What was you parents trade? This lets you choose another skill, here I opt for Cartographer. My thinking is that if I'm skilled at Hunting that means I'm out and about, so the information I bring back about the terrain would help with the Cartography of my parents and my own skills in that line.

Next comes apprenticeship. All Guardmice serve as an apprentice for two years, you get a single skill from this. I opt to up my Cartography.

Then comes mentoring by a member of the Guard and you get to pick from a sub list of skills. By luck I see Hunter is in the list and up that.

Your experiences in the Guard gain you a batch of Guard related skills, a Guardmouse gets 6. You can pick skills from a select list of Guard skills. In this case Hunter is there so I'll spend 3 on that making it a quite strong skill and spread the rest around. 1 on Fighter, 1 on Pathfinder and 1 on Scout.

Each Guardmouse has a speciality and this earns a skill, no two party members get to pick the same, and there are only 8 to choose from. As I'm rolling this character up as a stand alone it can choose any of the skills. In this case I'll up Fighter so that it's not too weak should an enemy turn up.

Now comes the tallying. What that means is that you add 1 to all of your skills to find their final value.

"Wises" come next. You get Wises, based on your rank, which in my case is Guardmouse, which means 2. Wises allow you "Know" facts, even introduce new facts the GM didn't know and also to augment skill checks. I'm figuring that as this mouse is a very good hunter, he should be Wise about related subjects, so I

opt for "Squirrel Wise" and "owl Wise". My rationale behind these is that Squirrels hide nuts, so knowing about that helps me character hunt out their food, and being outside means that he knows about the terrible Mouse Predator the OWL!

Guard Resources, is your acharacters ability to pay for or at least get hold of Guard resources, such as a replacement shield. As a Guardmouse I start with a rank of 2, but as I answer questions about my mouse this goes up and down, there are six questions. An example is, "Do you buy gifts for friends?". After working through the six questions my final score is 3

Circles is next. Circles refer to circles of friends, this allows you get help , it tells us how well connected socially the mouse is. Guardmice start with a score of 2 and answer some questions to modify that score. For example, Does your character have powerful enemies? My final score is ... 2.

Now come Traits, these represent personality quirks. I've already picked up Independent becuase of where the mouse was born, but the answers I given to questions in previous phase of character generation have ruled out a bunch of possible traits. There are pick lists for each of the trait phases.

Quality born with : I pick Longtail
Inherited from Parents : I pick Early riser
Life on the Road : I pick Sharp Eyed

We're nearly done now. I pick "Kole" as a name, Brown for a Fur color, my parents are Laird and Daye, I apprenticed with Abram, was mentored by Vidar and my best friend is a femail Guardmouse called Rona. My cloak is Red.

Now for the juicey bit. You have to make up an enemy. I decide on a hermit who lives in the wilds nears Copperwood. While hunting one day I picked food from one of his traps. Unfortunately although he's a Hermit he's the son of the aged Mayor of Copperwood.

Next you select a Belief for your character, this is an ethical or morale stance. I make up... "Self reliance is the foundation of the communities strength."

You would at this point, select a "Goal" for the character, but as that is based on the mission, I'll skip it for now.

Instinct is the final attribute. What is the characters first reaction likely to be, what are they trained to do. I make up the following. "Gather information, make an informed choice."

So there you go. Generating a character for Mouseguard . I have to say it is one of the most rewarding character gen' experiences I've had, at each step you feel like you really are building a personality rather than just min-maxing. It does have 21 steps, but each is quick and easy and thoughtful.

Age 22
Will 3
Health 5
Nature 4
Guard Resources 3

Smith x2
Haggler x2
Hunter x6
Cartographer x3
Fighter x3
Pathfinder x2
Scout x2

Long tail
Early Riser
Sharp Eyed


Friday, June 03, 2011


I'm running a play by forum game using the FATE 2.0 rules. As I'm a newbie to these rules I keep forgetting some of the rules. So with that in mind I'm making this post to summarise a few rules that I need to remember ( or at least be able to look up quickly online).

Aspects can be used to do the following if the action is applicable to the Aspect :
1. Reroll all dice after the event
2. Choose any die and change it to a "+"
3. Reroll a single die.
4. "Spend" an aspect to aid the character in narrating a scene. For instance, the Aspect "Rich" could be called on to allow the character to purchase a car.

FATE points can be spect to :
1. Add +1 to a roll(before or after the actual roll.
2. Take a minor narrative control of the scene. For instance you could spend a FATE point to have a witness turn up, or a bicycle just happen to be nearby when you need to escape.
3. Counter someone elses spending of a FATE point.
4. To take the camera for a monologue
5. Spend 2 FATE to give someone else a +1 to their roll.
6. Switch places with someone in combat
7. Take a hit in combat instead of someone else.